Monday, September 28, 2015

WW1 Trench Mortar & Creative Solution Process

(Credit: G.Furminger/Welland Tribune/Postmedia Network)
Back in the spring, I wrote briefly in my capital budget update about efforts to restore the World War One cenotaph and German mortar at Old Pelham Town Hall.

Since that time, thanks to the direction of a committed group of residents and funding support from Veteran’s Affairs, the Town beautifully restored the lead lettering on the historic cenotaph. (If you have not seen the work yet, I would encourage you to stop by Old Pelham Town Hall sometime!)

But, that left the future of the trench mortar uncertain. The Town received a pricey estimate to restore the mortar – more than $30,000 plus the costs for a new base. Another option? The Niagara Military Museum generously offered to remove the mortar from the site and painstakingly restore it at their location – so that they might display it there.

When the issue came to Council in late-August, many other suggestions arose: removal because it’s not a Canadian weapon; full restoration on site; partial restoration and protection; transformation into a serenity or “contemplation” garden. Some felt strongly one way, others as strongly the other way.

The solution? Council directed staff to host a creative problem session with as many of the key stakeholders as possible to discuss and make recommendations to Council. The thinking? Let’s get all the pertinent players in one room and discuss the emotionally-charged matter and, most importantly, try to understand each other.

The well attended session included: Jake Dilts, Jim Summersides, Bernie Law from the Royal Canadian Legion; Dell Clark, Carolyn Botari, Gary Chambers, interested Residents; Mary Lamb, from the Pelham Historical Society; seven members of the Niagara Military Museum; and Councillors Junkin and Rybiak.

The meeting was very positive and the group was able to work through the process respectfully and came to the conclusion of “How might we help Council make a decision to preserve the mortar at its current site?”

I understand that the session included some key “eureka” thoughts / challenges:

Since not many know the history of this German Trench Mortar, “how might we identify and interpret” the mortar’s history?

And, while some initially disliked displaying a “trophy of war,” others pointed out it was given to the Town in 1921 for a specific goal: How might we “never forget the sacrifice Pelham residents paid in WWI.”

The result? Last week, Council agreed to leave the WWI Trench Mortar at the Old Pelham Town Hall site and directed staff to work with the group again to recommend the extent of the restoration and identification and possible funding sources. (Please click here to review a copy of the Staff report of the creative problem solving session.)

Thanks, again, for the dedication of all involved!